THE turning of the seasons dictates the changing nature of the clutter in our hallway (which is always cluttered); so the sandals and sunscreen of summer have given way to wellies and waterproofs as we embrace the colder weather.
I have always rather enjoyed this time of year with the promise it brings of celebrations, shared laughter, and games around the fire. This year, of course, may be rather different, and I know that many are dreading the descent into the dark days of winter; perhaps it is as well that — before the storms arrive in earnest — we are encouraged to be grateful.
Harvest has been an opportunity to pause and give thanks, not only for our food and those who provide it, but for the cornucopia of good deeds and care that has been poured out in communities across our country, and the world, in the face of a shared crisis.
One group of people to whom, and for whom, I am immensely grateful, is the musicians and choristers of St Martin-in-the-Fields. It has been a great blessing to be able to visit achurchnearyou.com each Thursday, and find thoughtfully curated and professionally produced music to enhance our worship. If any of you are reading this, thank you!
I AM usually up early, sneaking quietly downstairs, trying to avoid disturbing the household. Unfortunately for our dog, my morning ritual involves putting a pot of coffee on the stove, and there is no way to do this without disturbing our mutt as she sleeps in the kitchen.
Often she will not even look up when I enter her domain, but simply expresses her displeasure with a deep sigh and an exaggerated rearrangement of her bedding; on other mornings, as she lies curled up and motionless, I dare to hope that she is asleep until, Smaug-like, one glittering eye opens and I know the game is up. She is not averse to a “first breakfast”, though, and her humour is usually improved with a little cheese, or a broccoli stalk or two: she is a dog with eclectic tastes.
Once I have been forgiven, she either settles back to sleep or pads along behind me as I take my coffee into the sitting-room — ostensibly to work, but, on clear mornings, to watch the sun rise over Ingleborough in the distance. Recently, the dawn sky was ablaze with red, orange, and pink hues; the beauty was breathtaking — as was the realisation that the intensity of colour was due to smoke particles from the Californian fires, carried high into the atmosphere, and swept across the Atlantic by the jet stream. Butterfly wings and hurricanes sprang to mind.
AT THE time of writing, Number Two Son is contending, if not with hurricanes, then at least with strong winds, as he and his partner make the most of what may be a very brief lull in “events, dear boy, events” and drive the North Coast 500: a route which will take them around the top of Scotland, and through some spectacular scenery.
They had intended to hire a camper-van but, when that fell through, decided just to camp. In northern Scotland. In autumn. Even the dreaded Highland midge has packed up for the year. (I suppose they can always sleep in the car. . .)
I hadn’t heard of what3words until Number Two Son introduced me to it: it’s an app, recommended by the emergency services, which can pinpoint your position if you are in need of rescue. The developers have divided the entire globe into 3m × 3m squares, and allocated each square a randomly generated three-word code. The idea is that, if you don’t know your map co-ordinates, or where, precisely, you are, you tap the what3words app and your rescuers know where to find you — as long as you have a mobile signal, I suppose.
The chances of my being in such wilderness at the moment are remote, but I downloaded the app, anyway; apparently, my vegetable patch is “wished waggled pigs”, while the pond is “sulked homeward energy”, neither of which is too thrilling. As I type, however, I am sitting in “note essay gladiator”.
Gleams of glory
NUMBER One Son also took his partner to Scotland this summer, showing her some of our beloved west-coast stamping-grounds. Their itinerary included a few nights on Skye, during which they were blessed with good weather, allowing them to climb Bla Bheinn, one of the most magnificent mountains in Scotland.
Should you ever decide to “bag a Munro”, put Bla Bheinn on your list of possibilities; it’s not a technical climb, although you will need to use your hands from time to time, and the views with which you will be rewarded are quite remarkable.
The many photographs my son took of, and from, Bla Bheinn, were less remarkable, however, than the one he took of the night sky above their cottage in the Cuillin. Trying to capture the beauty of the stars on a clear night, he set the camera to a long exposure. When he checked the photo, he saw that he had captured a bright green light, illuminating the dark sky: the Northern Lights — present that night, despite being invisible to the human eye.
Light shining in the darkness. As we sink towards what may seem to be a darker winter than most, may you too find light in unexpected places.
Elizabeth Figg is an ex-QARANC officer, nurse, and midwife, now working as a freelance writer.